This document shows how Managed Services Providers (MSP) can use Windows Intune™ in conjunction with a professional services automation (PSA) tool such as the Autotask platform to create a seamless and efficient workflow.
As the information technology (IT) services industry has evolved, many service providers have found increased profitability and customer satisfaction by adopting a flat-rate services model, popularly called managed services. Managed services are a packaged set of IT services offered for a flat, predictable monthly fee. The specific services that MSPs offer vary greatly but include remote infrastructure monitoring, spam filtering, help desk, client and server management, and remote backup functionality. Each MSP has its own unique mix of service offerings, but most include remote infrastructure monitoring.
At a flat monthly fee, a robust remote infrastructure monitoring system benefits both the MSP and the customer. The system provides the MSP with a predictable revenue stream, while the customer benefits by having a monitored IT infrastructure and service partner to help identify and repair system issues proactively, before they become system interruptions.
Delivery of this flat-rate and proactively managed services offering depends on a remote management and monitoring tool, such as Windows Intune. These services are further enhanced when business processes are managed using a PSA tool, such as Autotask.
Windows Intune is the latest addition to the Microsoft® Online Services portfolio. The offering combines the delivery of client computer management and security as a cloud service with an upgraded license to the Windows® 7 Enterprise operating system for the client computer, rolled into a monthly subscription. Windows Intune cloud services deliver management and security capabilities through a single web-based console. The console enables IT personnel to monitor, manage, update, secure, and troubleshoot users' computers wherever they are located. A connection to the corporate network or virtual private network is no longer necessary. Windows Intune also provides asset inventory capabilities.
PSA systems help MSPs manage all aspects of their customer relationships from a single system. PSA systems combine customer relationship management, service request and ticket tracking, contract and billing management, and extensive reporting.
Autotask, is a web-based, fully hosted PSA software platform that helps MSPs centrally manage their customer relationships. The platform can be used to automate the internal business processes for several geographically dispersed MSPs. Autotask can also provide MSPs with performance reporting, process automation for sales revenue and quotes, project and service delivery management, and billing.
Autotask and Windows Intune are complementary systems that, when leveraged together, help form a systems backbone for tracking and remediating technical problems in a customer's infrastructure. Autotask's business process automation, coupled with Windows Intune's systems management automation, creates an integrated workflow that includes issue alerting (Windows Intune), tracking and escalation of these issues (Autotask), remediation work to fix the reported issues (Windows Intune), and billing for the work performed (Autotask).
A hosted, Standard Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)–based email system, MSPintegrations Autotask Email Parser (Email2AT) detects inbound email messages and converts the received email messages to Autotask tickets. When Windows Intune detects an anomalous event, an alert is generated in the management portal. Automatically, a detailed email message can be sent to a preconfigured list of email addresses. Autotask tickets can be created from these email alerts by activating Email2AT.
Once the Autotask ticket is created, a workflow rule is triggered to notify technicians who have been configured in Autotask (typically employees of the IT service provider). The technician logs in to Windows Intune to remediate the alert situation and tracks the information from the Autotask ticket. When the issue has been satisfactorily resolved using Windows Intune, the technician marks the ticket as complete within Autotask and clears the alert from the Windows Intune administrator console (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Alert flow from Windows Intune through Email2AT to Autotask
To complete the setup and processes detailed in this document, an MSP must have signed up and activated the following services:
This section shows how Windows Intune can be configured to integrate with Autotask using Email2AT.
Email2AT can convert email messages into Autotask tickets. This non-Microsoft product carries a fee-for-use license agreement. For more information and to create and activate an account, visit http://www.MSPintegrations.com.
If the service provider has already activated Email2AT, skip directly to Step 2: Create Email2AT Addresses on page 8.
To activate Email2AT, the service provider must visit http://www.MSPintegrations.com. From the left navigation menu, click Sign Up. Follow the prompts to create a new account on the MSPintegrations site. The signup process includes authenticating to Autotask with valid Autotask credentials as well as confirming contact information to activate the account.
Once the MSPintegrations account is created, log in to the site using the Autotask credentials used to create the account. From the left navigation menu, click Email2AT. Then, complete the activation process (this step requires a valid credit card for the monthly service fee).
For each Windows Intune customer, the service provider should create four inbound Email2AT addresses—one address for each Windows Intune alert type:
By creating four inbound addresses for each customer, the service provider can configure Email2AT to create tickets with an appropriate queue, status, and priority based on the type of alert generated (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Email2AT Configuration page
Beneath Inbound Addresses, click Create New to display the Filter
Details for a new inbound address rule. All Email2AT inbound addresses are in the form keyword_ServiceProviderDomain.firstname.lastname@example.org. The keyword portion of the inbound address is customizable and used to differentiate multiple inbound addresses for a single service provider. When setting up inbound addresses to receive Windows Intune alerts, the recommended format for the keyword field is CustomerCompanyName_AlertType. For example, a service provider named Contoso with a domain name of Contoso.com would create the following four addresses for the customer named Litware:
Within Email2AT, configure each email address to create a ticket with settings appropriate to the alert type. For instance, Litware_InfoAlerts should create a ticket for Litware with a low priority, and Litware_CriticalAlerts should create a ticket for Litware with a much higher priority.
Figure 3 shows the correct setup for informational alerts that Windows Intune creates for Litware. Any email received at Litware_InfoAlerts_contoso.email@example.com will create a new Autotask ticket for the Litware account in the Monitoring Alert queue with a priority of Low.
Figure 3. Email2AT filter details (Litware_InfoAlerts.firstname.lastname@example.org)
You can configure Windows Intune to store a recipients list of all email addresses to which to send alerts. To add email addresses to this list, log on to the Windows Intune administrator console for your account, and then navigate to the Administration workspace. Click Alerts and Notifications, and then click Recipients.
Add all four Email2AT addresses created in Step 2: Create Email2AT Addresses (on page 8) to the Windows Intune Recipients list. For example, Figure 4 shows the four Email2AT addresses added to Litware's Windows Intune system. Figure 5 on page 11 shows the details for the Litware_InfoAlerts_contoso.email@example.com recipient address.
Figure 4. The Windows Intune Recipient list
Figure 5. Editing the Windows Intune Recipient list
Navigate to the Administration workspace, click Alerts and Notifications, and then click Notification Rules to associate the validated recipients to the alert types. Add the appropriate Email2AT recipient for each alert type. For example, Figure 6 on page 12 shows the four Windows Intune notification rules (as well as a fifth catch-all rule called All Alerts). In Figure 7 on page 12, you can see that Litware_InfoAlerts_contoso.firstname.lastname@example.org is selected as a recipient for Windows Intune All Informational Alerts.
Figure 6. Windows Intune notification rules
Figure 7. Windows Intune notification recipient selection
Anytime Windows Intune creates an alert, it notifies Email2AT to send an email message to Autotask, creating a ticket. Figure 8 shows an example of such a message.
Figure 8. An automated email message generated after an alert
Using Windows Intune, Email2AT, and Autotask, MSPs can automate the tracking of IT support issues for computers wherever they are in the world. Technicians can use Autotask as an informational source for opened and unresolved customer issues, whether the issue was created by a Windows Intune alert, an email from the customer, or a ticket manually entered into Autotask.
As CEO of Rezitech, Inc., Travis Austin has first-hand experience converting a break-fix computer support company into a thriving, Los Angeles–based MSP serving mid-sized enterprises.
Travis is also the founder of MSPintegrations, where he enjoys leveraging his skills to help other IT service providers prosper. Known as an expert among experts, Travis spends a majority of his time traveling, speaking, and providing business consulting services to IT service providers and Autotask users worldwide. To schedule Travis for a project or event, send an email to email@example.com.
Travis was named an "Autotask Rockstar" as well as Autotask's "Most Innovative Community Member" for his work with integrations and consulting. Travis was included on MSP Mentor's "MSP 250" list of the 250 most influential people in the IT Services industry as well as the SMB Nation and SMBTN joint "SMB 150" list of top 150 most influential people in the industry. He's been an invited speaker at Autotask, Microsoft, SMB Nation, MSPtv with Zenith InfoTech, VSR Magazine's Business Optimization Summit, and a number of other conferences and events.
When he is not traveling, Travis lives in Orange County, California, and enjoys cycling, swimming, and spending time with friends over coffee.